We may be a diverse group of people in Branches, but one thing we definitely have in common is our love of food!
It's always a beautiful thing to wake up to the smells of homemade biscuits in the oven and the sight of a friend in the kitchen.
The team had decided that for this morning, we would cook our own breakfast. One of the girls' cabins offered to host and make homemade biscuits and cook the eggs while the guys cooked up the meat (Of course, the men also decided to pour out the bacon grease right outside their cabin. We'll see if there are still guys on the team come tomorrow morning now that they've effectively put bear bait right at the door).
It's definitely a special thing to be able to wake up early and have fellowship in the kitchen while preparing a meal for others. There's just something innately heartwarming about it all. Serving our team in this small yet wonderful way was the best start a morning could offer.
After breakfast, there was a time of devotions presented by one of the girls' cabins, centered around a theme for our trip: Matthew 5:3-12 (The Beatitudes).
Having eaten our fill (and then some) of the glorious breakfast and being spiritually fed through devotions, the team was ready to begin our second day of service.
We all started by meeting up with our host (Grant) at The Learning Center to get the schedule for today's events. The team would split up again to assist with multiple opportunities to serve. One group was headed to a local laundromat where they would pay for and do the laundry of anyone who stopped by, talking with and praying for those they met. The other team would stay at the church and finish the painting from the day before, extending the project to include various doors and baseboards. There was also additional tasks of cleaning rooms and bathrooms for the interns that would be arriving tonight/tomorrow who would be living at the center for the summer.
This ministry is something Grant and the church have been doing for quite some time (meeting the people where they're at and need it the most), so the town definitely knew we were coming. A local radio station had apparently even been broadcasting about it.
Many hands were needed to not only complete the laundry but also to keep things organized and ensure we met with and had the opportunity to talk with anyone who was there.
Organization was definitely key as Grant and his team showed us the tricks they'd learned over the years, such as writing down the name of who's laundry was in each machine so that we could keep track.
The opportunity to meet people and help with a big need was so moving and impactful for everyone on the team. Having a captive audience to chat with was also a blessing. Even though we may not see the fruit from the work being done, God was definitely present, making an impact in His own way/timing.
Over four hours were spent working on laundry and talking with the people of Whitley City. I don't think anyone who was there has had as good or as productive of a time doing laundry for that long!
Those that stayed back at the church definitely kept busy! Some were finishing the paint job in a room they use for classes/the kids, while others cleaned bathrooms, fixed ceilings, and painted doors. Everyone worked in such a way that they were striving to serve with excellence no matter what the task may be. The team event went the extra mile to complete tasks that weren't even asked of us, such as painting the baseboards, not just the doors.
One of the big highlights was the completion of the classroom and the rebirth of the tree.
When we first arrived and saw one of the rooms we were being asked to paint, we were awed by the tree that was "living" there and saddened that it would need to come down. When Grant asked us to see if it could possibly be saved (though you could tell he didn't have much hope that it was possible), those on the team that were there instantly accepted the challenge and got to work!
Growth isn't always pretty, and sometimes you have to suffer first. Things can definitely seem messy and appear as if there's no hope.
Taking everything down to the base of it all can be the best place to begin. Starting from scratch gives you a clean canvas and the possibilities become endless.
Giving everything a fresh coat of paint allows for a new beginning and can brighten the feel of things.
But a fresh color and a new look to the base of things isn't a sign that it's time to stop, that you've done enough.
That's the time to take the pieces of the old, make the effort, and turn them into something new.
It may resemble what was once there, but it's never the same, and you're sure to leave something behind that's unique to you but speaks to others.
Our group at JFBC is called Branches (John 15:5 being the origin), and it was so amazing to see God's humor in that we were able to work with "actual" branches in such a way that His desire for our lives and how we seek to impact the lives of others for Him could be seen.
It's sad to think that our time here in Whitley City is already coming to a close, but to be able to look back and see the impact this trip has made, both for the church, the community, our group, and our individual lives has been inspiring and encouraging in and of itself. This trip and what God has been showing each of us will definitely be staying with us and will hopefully impact changes in how we live our lives as they continue when we arrive back home tomorrow evening.